10 top tips for feeding horses for condition

tracey hammond

by Tracey Hammond

Whether feeding for weight gain or for skin, coat and hoof condition, Dengie has a wide range of products to help keep your horse looking its best.

Top Tip 1: Forage, forage and more forage

Maximise forage intake by feeding ad-lib, good-quality forage to help maintain your horse’s weight. Don’t forget that the fibre fermentation process in your horse’s hind-gut produces heat as a by-product, which acts like its very own central heating system. Keep a close eye on veteran horses and ponies with dental problems to make sure they can still manage to chew their forage.

Whatever your horse’s age, Dengie Hi-Fi Senior, which combines high-temperature-dried grasses and alfalfa, can be used as a partial or total forage replacer. Whether you need a hay replacer because of a forage shortage or something that is soft and easy for your veteran to chew, Dengie Hi-Fi Senior is the natural choice.

Top Tip 2: Monitor your horse’s weight regularly

DSC 0068Using a weigh tape regularly alongside body condition scoring allows you to spot changes to your horse’s condition early. This means that you can act quickly before the problem becomes a big deal. Click here to watch a video on how to weigh tape a horse.

Top Tip 3: Weigh your feed

You could be using the right feed to help promote weight gain but. if you feed by the scoop and don’t know how much your scoop holds, you might still not get the desired result. As an approximate guide, a large round feed scoop. i.e. a Stubbs scoop holds 400g of Dengie Alfa-A range products, 1.5kg dry weight of Dengie Alfa-Beet, typically just over 1kg of mix and 1.5-2kg of cubes but, if you weigh your feed, you’ll know exactly what you are providing.

Top Tip 4: Know the recommended quantities to feed

Rather than feeding small amounts of lots of different types of lower energy or ‘calorie’ feeds, choose a higher-energy feed and feed it at the recommended quantity. Not only will this save some space in the feed room but, if you feed a cereal-based mix or cube, it is better for your horse’s digestive system to use a smaller amount of a higher-energy mix/cube than a large quantity of low-energy mix/cube.

Top Tip 5: Need condition without the fizz?

Avoid making sudden, dramatic increases in energy intake and choose feeds based on ‘slow-release’ energy sources such as fibre and oil rather than ‘quick-release’ energy sources such as starch from cereal grains. Both these factors are especially important in the winter months when your horse is stabled for longer periods and workload is less consistent.

Based on fibre and oil, Alfa-A Oil provides the ultimate source of slow-release energy for condition without the fizz. Feeding Dengie Alfa-Beet, which combines alfalfa and unmolassed sugar beet, alongside Alfa-A Oil provides an additional source of highly digestible fibre for condition without the fizz.

Top Tip 6: What if my laminitic or Cushing’s horse or pony needs condition?

Don’t panic – Dengie Alfa-A Molasses Free and Alfa-Beet are both higher-energy or ‘calorie’ options that are approved by The Laminitis Trust. Alfa-A Oil and Alfalfa Pellets can also be used if required because they have very low sugar and starch levels. All these feeds are straights, so require a source of vitamins and minerals fed alongside. Dengie Alfa-A Balancer would be ideal because it is molasses-free and contains prebiotics to promote efficient digestion and gut health.

Top Tip 7: Maximise digestive efficiency

A change of diet, stress and poor dentition are all factors that can impact on digestive efficiency. Some horses might also need a little extra help to get the most out of the feed they are given. Natural Vitality Digestive Health Plus combines a prebiotic, probiotic and brewer's yeast to create a favourable environment for beneficial bacteria to thrive. It can be used routinely or around a period of stress.

Top Tip 8: What if my horse is fussy, fizzy and has a limited appetite?

Some horses are poor doers – naturally fussy with limited appetites. The trick is to try to find something they like that is very concentrated and can therefore be fed in small amounts. Balancers are a great way to provide lots of nutrients in a small volume of feed. Try using Alfa-A Molasses Free or Healthy Tummy because the herbs they contain help to make them very tasty.

Top Tip 9: Give your horse plenty of time to eat

BII 6934Fibre takes a long time to chew! This is no bad thing and, if your horse is stabled for longer periods during the winter, it is a great way to help keep them occupied. If your horse is on a fibre ration, there is no need to restrict meal size in the same way you would cereal-based feeds. If you want to give your horse a smaller breakfast, feed before they go out to grass and then leave them with a larger quantity overnight when they have longer to eat it.

Top Tip 10: Promote good skin, coat & hoof condition

First, check that your horse’s ration is balanced in respect of vitamins and minerals. If you are feeding a fibre-only ration or less than the recommended amount of a feed with added vitamins and minerals, you should top up with an additional source of vitamins and minerals in order to provide a balanced diet. One of the Dengie balancers is an ideal way to do this.

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